The language of performance studies
In order to explore the language of performing arts, this year we have studied dance, music and drama. We completed performance piece in each art form and finished with a combined piece. We had to use different stimuli for each piece. In Music we were given a list of different words several which rhymed. We had to pick one or more and create an interpretation of the words. In dance we were given the words heaven and hell. We had to create a dance which showed both of these words using the techniques we had learnt. In drama we were given a fairy tale which we had to perform after discussion our idea and including changes.
In our combined piece we were given the life of Vincent Van Gogh to read. As a group we had to interpret this in our own way and create our performances. For our dance piece we decided there would be a noticeable difference between heaven and hell. For heaven we used the ideas that heaven should be flowing, soft, fluffy, light and elegant. We wanted heaven to move together but in opposite parts of the stage so that we could see that heaven was not as strong and united. Whereas with hell we had the ideas that hell should be movements with anger, sharp dynamics, stiff, strong, powerful and full bodied.
We wanted hell to move together and stay pretty close to is intimidating. We did this by using low and high levels. Though we used action and reaction between heaven and hell as if it was an ongoing battle. I thought this was very effective. In the end we all joined together to show how hell had conquered, by all used strong moves and doing it all together. We showed the relationships between heaven and hell by having hell close together to show the unity and heaven separated to show the weakness in heaven. The dance piece was very similar to the music and drama pieces and had lots of similarities.
Within music we used dynamics, which is used for the strength and the volume of the piece, whereas in dance we used it to make our moves bigger and smaller when we wanted a bigger impact. By using this we managed to create tension and make it very dramatic. Although we used dynamics in both dance and music we used them to create different effects. We used it in dance to create a strong and energetic piece where as in music we used it to create a slow and quiet piece. We also harmonised some of the song to create a happy and uplifting feeling to the piece.
Within all of my groups we did not disagree on any of the structures and understood what we were aiming for and we all understood the general direction we were heading in. In our combined piece we wanted to show how Van Gogh was going mad and how his mind led him to commit suicide. We showed the through which were going thought his mind and how the all got too much for him and his only way of escape was to kill himself. We portrayed his mind using sinister characters, characters who knew that this would ultimately lead to him taking his own life. Tension builds up and then calms down repeatedly.
As a group our intention was to create Van Gogh’s life story from the good things (dance motif and dialogue which was light and positive) to the bad things (using a different dance motif which involved powerful moves for example slamming chairs and a fast heavy energetic dance speed in order to give the meaning of Van Gogh’s confused and tortured life). Our group used spatial levels to create audience interest and convey meaning. Using high a high level and large sweeping movements with lively direction through space we managed to create the “highs” of his early life.
We used a contrasting medium level space with harsh, angular shapes of the body, and performers who loomed over one key character to establish the mood and feelings of violence, anger and darkness. We physicalised our key character, Van Gogh, with stiff and still body language, and eyes cast down in order to communicate his troubled character. We did not use direct speak; this was so the audience would have to interpret what we meant. Within our drama piece we wanted a comical piece which we aimed at children. To do this we decided to perform our piece with a pantomime theme.
We used narrators, at either side of the stage mimicking each other and telling the story to create comedy. Tension was created by the narrators by using silence and staring eye movements. We did this by using physicalisation, by using body language, stillness and eye contact between both narrators and characters. Using proxemics, of upstaging the actors and downstaging the narrators, we hoped to communicate visually what was happening our piece and the difference in roles between characters. We had the narrators standing close to the audience as if they were talking to the audience.
We also had the actors sitting at the back of the stage as if they were observing everything that was going on. To create tension we had the narrators arguing whilst the action of actors remained still. We used simple dialogue as we aimed this at young children for example “once upon a time” was used by the narrators, this is like a story book opening and it was repeated. Prior to the groups first rehearsal for our music piece there was one weeks worth of discussion and exploration of the word list. Many ideas were brainstormed from the material and we unanimously settled upon the words “hanky panky”.
Choosing words and seeing what ideas came to mind . The groups final decision rested with an interpretation of love and using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration we decided to create a love song. We used Romeo and Juliet as inspiration for the song as they are seen as love icons. In our dance piece we spent a lot longer as we found it harder to get everyone working together and to organise proxemics, motifs and choroerographic devices as we imagined. We decided that hell and heaven should unit and the end; making hell more powerful.
We put in extra hours so that we could practise it and change bits which we didn’t like or thought could be made better. In the combined piece we spent twice as long on this as music, dance or drama as we needed to include all three aspects of performance studies. We wanted it to be powerful, so we kept exploring new ideas until we were completely happy with our results. Within the rehearsal stage of music, we changed the idea of doing a sound scape to writing a song.
We thought the language of song would communicate more easily our ideas for example “where for art thou Romeo? we used this as love translation. Initially the sound scape sounded unrealistic and immature -the opposite image of that what we had tried to create. We changed the dynamics and added a harmony to improve this initially difficult piece. In the rehearsal stage of drama we changed a few of the beginning thoughts, as we changed some line to fit in with the end of the story. The line which fitted in to the story the most was the line ‘cook little pot cook’. We changed this line because we wanted the chocolate to melt and that is how you re enter the village.
So we changed the words to ‘burn little pot burn’. This fitted in really nicely. It took us a long to work together for our dance piece. It seemed much harder to agree upon the interpretation of the words “heaven and hell”. The art of dance ignited a great wealth of idea and imagination. Finally, through much trying and testing and extra hours of practising, we worked on an idea that heaven and hell been separately, hell would overcome heaven causing unision and ultimately the dance piece would climax with hell becoming the conquering power.
Our differing opinions based on proxemics and choreographic devices caused a lot of extra work, rehearsal time kept increasing as we consistently made changes and manipulated motif in order to aid development of the piece The main challenge for me within the rehearsal stage was the music, as it was difficult to get everyone sounding right. Everyone sings differently and has a different talent so some of the time it did not sound right. The next piece which was a challenge was the dance piece this was similar to music as everyone dances differently and picks up step at different paces.
This meant everyone had to work together and a lot harder so that we could keep with the deadline. Within all four pieces we took space/Proxemics in a similar way. We used them to create different dynamics in the piece. In drama we distanced the characters from the narrators to show there was tension between them. After we brought them together to show they had joined together. This was the same in dance, however we spaced out heaven to show the was a break and that is how hell gets through and destroys heaven.
On the day of our drama performance we performed this in front of our classmates and our teacher. We were expecting to get a positive reaction from the audience. I was shocked at how funny the audience found sections which we had not found funny, for example “can you stop repeating what I am saying” this was a line mimicked by the narrators which we did not think would be as funny. We aimed this play at young children wanting them to find this funny but also find it interesting and take something away with them.
I believe all the aims that we had set out to do were met. We made people laugh (even when we did not think this would happen). One change I would have made it developed the song at the end; we could have used audience involvement to get the audience feel more involved. We hadn’t really practised it that much so therefore it looked un organised and need work. I noticed that within both music, dance and drama there were some similarities. Like drama we performed our music piece in front of our classmates and our teacher.
Our group expected the audience to have a positive response and this is what we got. We wanted people to remember the melody of the song by adding different textures. We had a timbre which made our song sound more serious, where did this by having a male singing in the background to create our harmony When performing our dance piece we did this in front of our classmates and our teacher. We wanted to set a strong mood and atmosphere. We wanted people to be shocked and we wanted people to be wondering who will win; whether good will win over evil.
We wanted to surprise the audience by have the ‘bad guys’ win so that this wouldn’t be typical. We succeeded in achieving this with positive feedback from both the teacher and the audience. We could have developed our piece further by maybe adding a few more extra moves. When performing the combined piece we did this in front of our classmates our teacher and the other AS performance studies class. This one was more difficult as we had never preformed in front of them before, whereas before we felt comfortable and more relaxed with the people we were performing in front of.
We expected a confused reaction from the audience as we had made this piece more complex to the other tree piece, by not telling the whole story but by give snippets of his life this mad the audience thing and have to work out what was happening. This made the audience think all the way throughout the piece. We achieved this and got a good response from both the audience and the teachers. If I could have changed a bit it would have been the bit with chairs, we tried to make this bit feel intimidating, however because we hadn’t practiced it as much as would have like we didn’t look like we new what was going to happen next.
In music, dance and drama there are many similarities such as we used dynamics to build up tension, in music we slowed the song down at the beginning to give the piece more meaning at to add to the texture. In drama we also used dynamics to build up tension by using climax and anti-climax at the beginning when the narrators started to talk, we had a huge pause where the audience did not know what was going to happen.
Finally we used dynamics in dance to create tension by using our spatial levels which created a climax as the audience where unsure of what to expect. Over all I think all of my performance went well. There were a few mistakes which we made but that is only to be expected. We can then learn by these mistakes to help us next time. If I could change one thing overall it would be to have practiced more, maybe in front of an audience so that when we came round to it, it wasn’t so nerve-racking.